ZYX UNIverse X-SB 0.24 sounding "too much"

Hello everyone.

Recently acquired UNIverse x-sb 0.24 and using it on a Naitais Lenco L75 + Ringmat Anniversary with SME3012R arm and it sounds "too much". Comparing to the XV1s (tracking at 2.10), it sounds "too much", female vocals are too much. Another way to put it is too dynamic(?). It's doesn't sound worse than the XV1s, but very very different. Currently tracking at 1.95 or there abouts. Any ideas? Adjustment, tweak issue or loading, or tracking angle?

Rest of vinyl front end is Audio Note M7 with Bent MU 1:20 Silver transformers. Universe loaded to about 110 ohms. XV1s run on open load 125 ohms.

Those loads on a SUT input?!?!

100 ohms sounds about right for both cartridges, but not with a SUT.
When I had my Universe with the Bent MU I had it loaded under 10 ohms.
My ZYX R100 loads at 100ohms and tracks best at 2gms. Also, my arm is even or just a bit lower in the back on most LPs. I have found Ringmat TT mats to bring out a brightness (or extra dynamic) on turntables I've used in the past. Now I use only Herbie's mats.
My Zyx is the most powerful sounding cartridge I've ever had. You might just have to live with it.
By saying acquired does that mean its new or used. If new you know that it needs break in time. If used then you need to get into small adjustments mode until you find the sweet spot you are looking for. I track between 1.95 and 2. and in my case i like the dynamics of higher tracking force compared to the increased upper end of lower tracking force.
If that does not work for you then keep your XV1 and put Universe up on the gon it will go fast.
Happy days and enjoy the music
Many thanks for all your prompt inputs.

Sorry about not being clear in the first place. The load of 110 ohms or 125 ohms is the load that the cartridge sees. Putting the SUT on the phono will result in open load of 125 ohms. I load the SUT on the secondary with 200K to get around 110 ohms or there abouts.

I've heard many people load their SUT's under 10 ohms also, but going lower than 100 ohms, the sound starts closing up. I'll try doing right down, but I think it will sound horrible. Is there something I'm doing wrong? The Bent MU SUT's are the easiest to change loading ... how hard can it be? I don't know why my loading sits 10 times higher than others who use SUT's.

The UNIverse is used, and from what I know, has about 300 hours on it so I'm pretty sure it's burned in.

Could the "too much" that I'm hearing be the exposed weak links of my setup? The arm, the deck, the preamp, the amp, etc, etc?
I have both the ZYX Universe and the DV1s mounted on different arms on the same turntable and the sounds from both cartridges I find to be almost indistinguishable?
If you used the same equipment for your DV1s, I don't see how the Universe could be exposing any 'weak link' that the DV1s didn't?
It's hard to understand what you mean by 'too much'....especially on vocals, but as I have both cartridges delivering essentially the same sound, it may be that you had the DV1s set up marginally? It is a most dynamic cartridge and if anything.......could be called a little "too much' in comparison to the Universe?
I don't think there is anything wrong with the weights you used for both cartridges, but checking cartridge geometry, VTA and azimuth would be useful?
I think you are missing the point with primary loading on the SUT.
OK. I am TOTALLY confused with what's going on, and what's what.

Bent MU SUT's ... the posts for loading using different resistors, is that on the primary or the secondary? I think it's the secondary.

Load of phono stage is 50 Kohms. SUT's are 1:20. Hooked up with no additional loading, the cartridge sees 125 ohms. Yeah?

This setting sounded fantastic with the XV1s, but a tad bright and accentuated highs with the UNIverse.

Adding additional 200 Kohms resitors to the posts on the SUT's, the cartridge sees 100 ohms. Yeah?

This made the UNIverse sound better, not so dynamic and bright, but a tad too dulled down. Logic would mean that I needed somewhere in between 125 and 100 ohms for the UNIverse to sound optimum.

Seeing how people have loaded their UNIverse's way down below 10 ohms, and around 6.54 ohms, I gave it a shot and put a 3.9 Kohm resistor across the posts on the SUT's. This would mean that the cartrigde sees 9.04 ohms. Yeah? This sounds really really good. With a 2.7 Kohm resistor (6.4 ohms), it was a tad too closed in for my tastes.

How is it that the UNIverse is sounding so good wayy down at 9.04 ohms and also (potentially) between 100 and 125 ohms?

And also, is 100 ohms total on SUT's + phono the same as 100 ohms on an active gain phono?

Many thanks for everyone's advice.
David, have you contacted John Chapman about the best way to proceed with these two cartridges? He's a great guy and I'm sure he could help you get this working very well.

I own the XV-1s and I've heard the Universe many times. The Dynavector is very good, but the Universe should easily surpass it.

I used 1:10 BentAudio Mu's for several years with my UNIverses (and other carts) before changing to an MC phono stage. You mentioned that some have loaded their UNIverse down to around 6.54 ohms. Since that is precisely the value we found optimum (in our system) I imagine you must be quoting one of my old posts. So first, let me say "hi"!

You're correct that the Mu's resistor posts are on the secondary.

All your math is correct too.

Your finding that 9.04 ohms sounds "really really good", but that 6.4 ohms was too low is unsurprising. Systems differ. The value that worked best in our system was not best when we tried our Mu's and UNIverse in other systems.

In our setup 6.4 would also have been too low. We found the acceptable range was very narrow. We could hear differences between 6.54, 6.55, 6.57, 6.58 and 6.59 ohms. These ridiculously tiny changes were made by putting TWO resistors on each set of binding posts. This fine tuning was the only way we could get the performance we wanted.

FWIW, Riken ohms sounded best to our ears/in our system.

How is it that the UNIverse is sounding so good wayy down at 9.04 ohms and also (potentially) between 100 and 125 ohms?
That hasn't been demonstrated yet. If it turns out to be true, my only guess is that, as Dave Slagle explained in a post last Fall, loading an SUT on the secondary only is an incomplete method that doesn't control winding resonance on both sides. Secondary-only loading controls resonance on the secondary side but may not be optimum for controlling primary side winding resonances. The optimal solution is to load each side (differently of course), with the primary side load controlling those windings and the cartridge. The solution offered by the Mu's is a compromise, and you may find one load controls one side better while another load controls the other side better. Oy!

That gets too complex for me! Our active stage is superior to our Mu's, so we haven't used them in quite a while. I'd urge you to experiment with two resistors on the posts however. That really helped us fine tune, and since your SUT is 1:20 while mine is 1:10, your setup will react more to small changes.

And also, is 100 ohms total on SUT's + phono the same as 100 ohms on an active gain phono?
No. They are quite different.

An active stage has no windings, primary or secondary, that need resonance control. The optimum sounding value with an active stage is almost always much higher than with SUT's, and the precise value needed is less critical. No one could hear a 2 or 3 ohm change through an active stage but, as you've just demonstrated, the same change through an SUT makes a huge difference. We play our UNIverse through the MC stage of our Doshi Alaap at around 200 ohms. I can switch to 75 ohms and the sound is slightly closed in, but the difference is far subtler than with an SUT.

The UNIverse, as Dan_Ed said, can surpass what the XV-1S is capable of, but it will require much work and fine tuning to make that happen. Unless everything in a system and setup are optimized to the nth degree, the UNIverse will only be a really good cartridge. It's ability to be an extraordinary, mind-altering cartridge requires a certain amount of fanaticism. Judging by your posts on this thread, I think you have potential. ;-)

Yes, I had checked my calcs with John when I purchased the 1:20 Mu SUT's and he confirmed my calculations. And he confirmed that the loading is done on the secondary. I did not ask him specific about loading configurations for the UNIverse or the XV1s.

You answered earlier that 100 ohms is about right for both cartridges, but not with SUT. So 100 ohms on active is not the same as 100 ohms on SUT? This is one thing I cannot make sense. I agree that there must be something I'm missing since everyone is loading down their SUT's down below 10 ohms ...
>>The UNIverse, as Dan_Ed said, can surpass what the XV-1S is capable of, but it will require much work and fine tuning to make that happen.<<

Not true.

I own both and have used each extensively in 3 relatively high end arms i.e. Tri Planar, Dynavector 507 Mk.II, and Basis Vector 3.

The XV-1s and for that matter Transfiguration Orpheus are better overall pickups IMO.

Universe, although incredibly detailed, lacks the bottom end of both and also can get congested in extremely complex passages.

Dealer disclaimer
Dear David: Ok trying to help around : that 3012 tonearm is a little " alive " on upper mids/high frequencies, the Universe is a little on the bright side and not so good on the low bass ( against other top cartridges like your XV-1 ), so the contrast between both frequency extremes along the 3012 performance could cause what you are hearing. I can't remember if your SME model has a removable headshell but if it has then you can try the Universe with different headshells, this could help. By-passing the SUT could help too but this is a way different " history " and can't help you with out a phono stage change.

Regards and enjoy the music.

Our experiences differ, obviously. Dan and I hear what we hear. You hear what you hear. Which experiences are more "true" is nothing either of us can determine.

That said, if your UNIverse sounds congested during complex passages then I believe something's misadjusted, mismatched or flawed. In my system and others, no cartridge I've heard sounds less congested, including the two you mentioned.

Keeping the thread on topic (more or less), what phono stage(s) do you use?


I experienced the same with the UNIverse and while nothing can hold a candle to the clarity, detail, dynamics and air of this cartridge, it seems to go awol on the really bottom end so it comes across as lean and one yearns for it to be unctuous as well as so clear.

I have played around with loading into transformers quite a bit but there always seemed to be some kind of trade off; as low end improved went up, highs became ragged.

ANYWAY, I was totally shocked when I tried the ZYX pre-pre (into the Aesthetix IO-sig). The low end appeared like never before, with no trade offs in the space or extension.

Now it is complete and you can have your cake and eat it with a UNIverse!

Hmmm .... very intereting.

Doug: Thanks for your input. Yes, the value of 6.54 was your value that you told me about through private email sometime long ago. I was having problems with an XV1s on a LP12 - if you recall back that far.

Audiofeil: Listening to my XV1s for two weeks before I switched to the UNIverse does indeed correspond to you experienced. Lack of bottom end (this was loading the SUT to achieve 100 ohms total). This was my initial reaction to what I was hearing, and the mid and highs were very open (airy) and more extended than the XV1s. However, loading it down to 9.04 ohms or there abouts is now sounding a lot better. To be honest, I've sorta forgotten what the XV1s sounds like now ;), but the fact that I'm still living with the UNIverse on the rig means it can't be that bad.

Rual: Thanks for your input.

Steve: Maybe I should try the ZYX pre-pre.

Sticking with my new discovery of loading way down low, is they XV1s supposed to be loaded down below 10 ohms also, around where the UNIverse is?

Thanks all,
Both Doug and I are avid Universe fans but our experiences with the cartridge differ significantly.
Whilst Doug indicates that the Universe is very finicky with set-up and sensitive to even the most microscopic changes to VTA, VTF and loadings, I however find it to be the most tolerant of modern LOMC cartridges.
From mounting it initially in a Hadcock GH228 Unipivot on a Rega Planar 3 to tranferrring it to a Raven AC-1 and then a Raven AC-3 and then a DaVinci 12" Ref Grandezza on the Raven AC-3, I have never lost the 'magic' of the Universe. Regardless of the tracking weight (1.6gm-2.2gm), regardless of the VTA (up slightly-down slightly), regardless of the azimuth (at least on the Hadcock...the DaVinci is fixed), regardless of the geometry of the overhang, the Universe has NEVER lost its alluring transparency and invisibility.
Nor has it ever been shy in the bass department (even in the Hadcock) as other posters have intimated. In fact it is at least the equal to (if not better than) the DV1s in this regard.
Why this difference in experiences?
Am I missing this cartridge's true greatness?
I have heard many cartridges in my systems including VdH Grasshopper, Koetsu Urishi, Clearaudio Concerto and Insider Gold, Lyra Helikon and Titan i, Dynavector DV1s not to mention all the MMs the best being the Garrott P77.
Yet all of them seem like 'interpreters' compared to the 'master tape' qualities of the Universe.
Nothing I can do to the set-up of this cartridge will eliminate its intrinsic superiority and I fear that Doug's consistent warnings will turn others away from buying this audiophile wonder?
Doug has more experience than almost anyone with this particular cartridge, but if the explanation for our differing experiences is that I'm not hearing the 'true' magic of the Universe?........then I advise everyone to buy one immediately as the 'impoverished' performance of the Universe still towers loftily above all others.
Just tried the XV1s at loaded down to 9.04 ohms as per the UNIverse. It sounds really bad and closed in. Took off the resistors (open load of 125 ohms), and it's magic. For some random reason, the loading that I'm getting best results seems to be similar to that of active gain stages.
I am with Halcro on the UNIverse set up. Have had it in many arms and have found a wide +/- tolerance to set up paramters for VTF, VTA etc. In many ways the cartridge is somewhat benign to different arms, seems to work best in mid effective mass arms. I did find the bass missing a bit more in unipivots and the best match so far is the Grandezza, but frankly it sounds wonderful in a variety of good arms - which makes it an attractive proposition to acquire. I have it at 1.9g and neutral VTA,using Baerwald alignment.

Universe has no bottom end and is congested no way. Listening to several well recorded lps Beatles Abby Road, Eagles first lp with serious lower bass you not only could hear but feel the music. Using my phono amp with my other phono front end gear i have full taunt bass and all else. Universe will produce a spectrum of sound that will please the ears.
If you are using Universe and not getting these results you need to look at your other components there is where the problem will lie.
I haven't lived with a Universe so I can only go by what I hear in Doug's system, which isn't too much different from my own. So take this for what it's worth and please remember that Linnmaster is looking for answers to his loading questions.

I have never heard the Universe be bass shy or congested. I would pretty much agree with what Halcro posted as to how he describes the Universe. I have also heard the difference when Doug makes one of his nudges, usually resulting in a focusing of the instruments. Granted the Universe can sound great without the extra bit of adjusting, but doing so can improve performance if done correctly.

I have lived for several years now with my XV-1s and have even mounted my Dyna on Doug's table for a direct comparison. I would say that this Dynavector gets you at least 80% of what a Universe is capable of. That's just my opinion so don't anyone go nuts. But I don't think that is odd given that the Universe costs much more. The XV-1s more than suits my needs. I am very happy with it.
It's certainly not my intent to turn anyone off the UNIverse. Far from it! I agree with you, Radicalsteve and many others that it stands above any cartridge I've heard for reproducing like a master tape (nicely put by the way).

My stating how critically we adjust may seem offputting to some, I guess it's just what we do. We hear the differences (Dan_Ed, Swampwalker and Raul have heard them too) so we adjust. Whether they, you or anyone else does is up to them, and certainly not worth worrying about.

Last night we listened for hours, just for pleasure, not doing any sort of audiophile testing or comparisons. The program was a bit mixed:

Beethoven Symphony #2, Hogwood/AAM, L'oiseau Lyre

'Les Plaisir de Renaissance', Dansons et Chansons, luth & flutes a bec with counter-tenor, Harmonia Mundi (France)

Beatles, 'Abbey Road', MFSL

The Biggs Bach Book, E. Power Biggs, Columbia Masterworks

'Trio', Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt, Emmy Lou Harris, Warner Brothers

The bass on Abbey Road and on Biggs' organ was tremendous, especially considering the limited dynamics of the Masterworks pressing. So were the drums on the Beethoven.

Did we adjust VTA for each LP? Yes, but we've done that for years, starting before we ever owned a ZYX. Other cartridges have needed VTA "right" more than the UNIverse. Our Shelter 901's frequency balance changed alot with arm height. No ZYX ever makes gross errors like that, VTA just gets the timing between fundamentals and harmonics right.

Did I tweak VTF occasionally, by .005g or less, to get the sonic balance just right? Yes. Our ears say to do it so we do. For us, optimal VTF is so critical that it can change from LP to LP, but this is because we play on the knife's edge of mistracking. Our visitors always hear the right spot when I demonstrate, but they might not notice or care if I just set it say .1 gram heavier and ignored it. We notice, so we adjust. Call us fanatics. :-)
Radicalsteve and Linnmaster,
I agree the ZYX pre-pre and the Artisan phono are quite good, better than the BentAudio Mu's in our experience. They're also good value. IME, to do notably better you have to spend a lot more money, and even that's no guarantee. I've heard MC phono stages that cost double the Artisan but don't come close.

Stltrains summarized perfectly:

"If you are using Universe and not getting these [superb] results you need to look at your other components there is where the problem will lie."
Hey, if I try (or get) the ZYX pre-preamp, do I need to worry about loading, or is that all sorted for me and matched to that of the UNIverse already? So I can plug that into the M7 phono stage yeah? If that's the case, would the pre-preamp suit the XV1s also?

"I would say that this Dynavector gets you at least 80% of what a Universe is capable of."
I'd go 85%! ;-) The XV-1S is a very good cartridge. I've never heard one do anything wrong, in Dan's system, ours or elsewhere.


The ZYX pre-pre has a fixed input impedance of 125 ohms, right in the heart of the optimal range for a 4 ohm MC when using an active gain stage. It's perfect for a LO ZYX (naturally) and should be good for an XV-1S too. Remember, getting impedance precisely right is far less critical with an active gain stage than with SUT's. We play at ~200 ohms and anything from 100-200 would be fine. Close counts.

Like an SUT, the pre-pre provides no RIAA equalization. It's intended to plug into the MM inputs of a phono stage.

Your SUT's provide 26 db of gain. The ZYX pre-pre provides only 20. This may or may not be sufficient, depending on the gain structure of the rest of your system. The gain calculator at www.kabusa.com may help you figure that out.
I'm going to try the ZYX pre-pre and give it a shot ... thanks for all your help. I don't think this will be the end of my loading dilema ... back soon :)
I am using the zyx UNIverse S SB 0.24mv with the zyx Artisan phono stage with good results. I do not have a MM input so i use the phono stage into my Marantz SR9300. I find the resolution is very good on whatever music I listen to. On some albums, its like the musicians are in the room. I tend to run very light on the vtf(dougdeacon thanks!). I do not optimize on every record but when i put on one that is a little thicker or thinner i will move the vta. this cartridge IMO, is very sensitive to the sweet spot and its is a little more narrow than others i have used. So far i have not seen record this cartridge can not do a good job on.

I'm reminded that my BentAudio Mu's are the copper wired version, and that your silver ones are more transparent by all reports of those who've heard both. Take that into account in your decision.

Doug, definitely. I have the oppourtunity to try one out so I can determine if that's actually what's causing grief. If I get similar results with the ZYX pre pre, then it must be arm/table/cartridge mismatch. Right?

Thanks heaps.
That's an overly simple assumption. The sonic problem you described could be caused by many things.

There's no obvious reason to suspect an arm/cart mismatch. The UNIverse is actually quite forgiving as to tonearms. It sends less stray energy into the arm than many cartridges and your arm is of a suitable effective mass. It's possible, but I don't think it's likely.

Arm/table mismatches are rare and usually involve heavy arms messing up the springs on a suspended table, not your situation at all. High mass, unsprung tables can handle pretty much any arm that will fit.

For the female vocal problems you described I'd suspect, in no particular order:
- cartridge too new/not relaxed yet
- phono stage overload/slewing distortions (have to try another to know)
- cartridge not properly aligned with Mint or Wally protractor (no acceptable substitutes AFAIK)
- VTF not properly fine tuned (.01-.02g above the mistracking point)
- VTA not properly fine tuned (cartridge close to level or a hair tail-down)
- Antiskate not properly fine tuned (reduced to near zero)
- Resonances being excited in the platter and/or idler drive mechanism (haven't heard a Lenco, no idea what level of performance it's capable of)

We used to have problems like yours with certain passages, but as our system and setup improved those problems have been eliminated. The problem was not the cartridge. Today, no female vocalist on any LP fails to play well and cleanly, whether opera, jazz, blues, pop or whatever. But you have to work at it and everything in the system has to be right.
I agree with Doug. In our community we have a blind Audiophile, he is really good with listening, he has a lot of carts, latest was the top Clearaudio and today one of my friends installed a UNIverse in his System, he simply couldn't believe the difference to his former ones (XV-1s included), he asked to leave it in his home for loan.
Cartridge/Phonostage matching can be simple, but it can be the other way too..
Doug wrote a few Settings to check, but from my experience none is so dominant, that it transforms the Sound from wrong to great.
The UNIverse is one of the most forgiving carts, to make it sound bad, one has to work on it.
Thanks for your further input Doug and Syntax. I guess I'll continue to work at it ... I'm reminded of a saying that can be related to so many things in this world. "Good things take time." It was on a fine cheese commerical :)

Hope you all had a good Easter.